Creating a unique sci-fi adventure isn’t exactly easy. Even games like Planet of Lana have to compete with the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and even epic games like the Mass Effect Series. I am happy to report that despite not being a multi-year or multi-game property (yet), Planet of Lana provides a tale that is just as special as the above properties in many ways.
After a very impactful opening, the following adventure is a spectacle filled with countless memorable sequences that conclude with a satisfying and meaningful chapter.
You play as Lana, a young girl who’s making her way through her simple waterfront town. The quaint beginnings are touching, beautiful, and simple in all the right ways. The community around you is busy with daily tasks, each one greeting you as you pass by. If you’re ok being spoiled for the setup of the game, you can watch this opening sequence in the First 30 Minutes Planet of Lana video above.
Once you exit your homestead, things escalate quite quickly. These opening 5-10 minutes actually shook me much more than I expected they might. I felt a sense of dread as soon as Lana’s family and friends were in danger. I needed to spring into action in any way I could!
Maybe it’s the world design, maybe it’s the innocence of the young characters, or maybe it’s the incredible score that plays throughout the game. But more than likely, it was all the above. The setup of Planet of Lana hooked me, and I was ready to set out on my adventure.
An Off-Planet Puzzler
Essentially, Planet of Lana is a side-scrolling puzzle game. Anyone who has dabbled in the indie game scene for the last decade, you likely played or heard of Inside or Limbo. Those are much darker settings and games, but the idea of traversing through different settings and environments with some puzzle-solving progression is ever present here.
The gameplay itself is quite simple, but I also felt it just let me focus on the task. As Lana travels further and further away from her ravaged home, you meet a small alien-like creature that is a mix between a mouse and a cat. It’s adorable with its bright white eyes and incredibly cute sounds. Your new friend isn’t just there for looks; they’re just as involved in the puzzle-solving as you are the more the game progresses.
For the first half of the game, the puzzles are fairly simple. If a deep challenge is what you’re looking for in a game like this, Planet of Lana won’t be that title. But that’s ok; racking your brain for 6+ hours isn’t always in the cars, and I found it helped move the adventure along briskly. I was eager to find out more about the world around Lana, and the game design helped me do that. Sure, some of the areas were more difficult than others, but none of them had been frustrated.
Planet of Lana, A Place Full of Danger and Discovery
The alien race and otherworldly creatures you encounter are less friendly than your new little friend. The War of the Worlds-esc aliens is mechanical nightmares with long spider-like legs, speeds, and weapons meant for destruction. Using tall grass, distractions, some traversal, and clever timing, Planet of Lana allows you to avoid danger and any sense of combat in order to survive.
The reasons why and how all of this has happened is what really kept me going. What began as a simple morning stroll through a village soon turns Lana into a girl who’s unearthing an ancient past of technology with a galaxy-spanning history. It didn’t matter if I was finding new abilities, jumping over epic cliffs, or simply petting my new little friend; I found a sense of wonder and urgency each and every step of the way in Planet of Lana.
Epic Scope and Scale
Planet of Lana seems like a simple game on its surface. In a lot of ways, it is. As I’ve explained, many of the puzzles are, and the control scheme follows suit. But the presentation is astounding, in my opinion. The music feels like it has all the amazing trappings of a classic sci-fi adventure on the big screen. It’s soft and melancholy when it needs to be while being on point with its bombastic crashes, followed by unsettling moments of tension.
The game also has a beautiful art design. Characters are life-like while also feeling like they’re from an animated movie. Creatures (friendly and unfriendly) are distinctive in design, sound, and movement. There’s a fluidity to even the most mechanical designs in Planet of Lana.
Lastly, and definitely not least; the environments. Whether it is the variety of biomes Lana walks on or the for and background detail, it’s all very impressive. I found myself stopping just to take in the depth of detail and care that went into this game. It’s a shame so much of it is missed as you constantly travel from left to right; it deserves to be admired.
If a quieter, 2-D side scroller with puzzles and touching moments of character sounds like your thing, Planet of Lana is here to hand you that adventure. It has a beautifully delivered story from the smallest background detail, the main character of Lana herself. Told with no words or text, the developers were able to convey a meaningful tale of loss and discovery.
I found myself just as mystified by the discoveries just as much as the main protagonist herself. A clear-cut sign of great game design and storytelling in my mind.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PC